• Published 10th Feb 2015
  • 845 Views, 12 Comments

Ends of Empire - GreyGuardPony



Much has been lost in the mists of time. The names of heroes and villains, lost treasures and nations, and even the passage of wars. And one such war would leave the world forever changed, and leave a ruler scarred. A Lunaverse story.

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Something ends....

It sounded like thunder.

Spiral raked at the ground with her forehooves, glancing back at the rest of her gathering party. Her fellow goats looked nervous, exchanging scared bleats. They shuffled, cast nervous glances towards the clear blue sky and looked ready to turn tail and run as fast as they could in the other direction.

For it sounded like thunder, but there was not a cloud in the sky. And that could only mean one thing. The shining ones, as they were coming to be known amongst the goat tribes.

The trip had began as simple round of foraging. Find food for the tribe. Bring it back. It was how their kind had always existed, using the rough mountain peaks as both home and castle and then gathering the bounty of the land. Their efforts ensured full bellies over the winter and happy kids come the spring.

But now their stores were running low all the time, overwhelmed by outsiders from other mountain kingdoms. Outsiders like the two tag alongs who had offered to join her tribemates in foraging. A light and dark coated pair of siblings that had arrived with the last group of fleeing goat-folk, bringing stories of the scaled conquerors. It didn’t help that their current foraging trip hadn’t been productive so far. The woven fiber nets they had lashed across their flanks were depressingly empty.

“We must tell the chief!” Quick Find yelped, his narrow frame shaking like a leaf in storm winds. “The shining ones come!”

Spiral licked her lips. “We...we must be sure. We can not move. Where would we go?”

“Thunder on a clear day.” Flower Finder whispered, cowering close to the ground. “Thunder roars on a clear day! The travelers say that was the sign before their tribes were taken!”

The darker coated of the visiting sisters, who was known as Dusk, nodded. “Yes...it is a sign.”

“We have to be sure.” Spiral whispered.

The five goats stood still for a moment, before looking out across the wide valley they were preparing to enter. Goats lived in the mountains. The mountains had always kept them safe, turning away lesser creatures that couldn’t handle the sharp rocks, small paths, and deep ravines.

The thunder roared again, echoing closer off the walls of the valley. Spiral winced, taking a few trembling steps forward, her hooves echoing off the the stone. She would be the brave one. She would see what approached their home and give the signal to flee if needed.

She prepared to take another step, when a horrific shriek from Flower Finder almost made her topple over her perch. She looked up, her heart sinking in her chest at what swooped in on leathery wings, and glittering golden armor.

The stories from those who had fled the other tribes were all the same. First came the thunder. Then came the fliers. They flew on wedge shaped wings of skin in place of forelegs, but their hind legs were tipped with gripping claws. And their sharp beaks stabbed and bit and tore.

A whole flock of those monsters - two dozen in all - were swarming about them now, their shrieking calls sounding so much like laughter. Green scaled ones with glittering thin golden helmets, and red scaled ones with iron helmets swooped about them.

Spiral bleated, scrambling backwards only for her hoof to catch a stone and send her to the ground as blind panic settled into her group. Quick Find whirled about and bolted, rushing back towards what he believed was saftey. He didn’t make it farther than a few steps before two of the flying monsters struck. Strong talons closed around his limbs, yanking him into the air with a panicked bleat.

Flower Finder lashed out at the monsters that swooped around her, trying to bring her horns to bear against her attackers. They moved like the rushing stream, however, nimbly avoiding the chaotic, disorganized strikes with the practiced grace of warriors. A large green one- most likely their leader- struck out with a one of its taloned feet, firmly grabbing Flower’s horn. And the sisters, they did nothing but stand completely still!

Spiral didn’t get to see what happened next as she was boldly yanked into the air. The world below turned into a dizzying swirl of color and motion. The monsters were carrying her and her friends and the strangers somewhere undoubtedly horrible. There they would most likely be tortured or enslaved or maybe even eaten!

Their captors straightened out, which did at least provide the relief of the world stopping it’s spinning. They were moving through the valley at a great speed, approaching something on the horizon. It was a great glittering monster that slowly rippled and pulled itself along the valley floor while clouds of black dots hovered above it.

What was this creature? Had the shining ones brought some kind of great monster with them? Would they be fed to beast?

It was only when they drew closer that Spiral was able to see the glittering creature for what it was. Thousands of warriors were marching northwards through the valley. There were creatures that stood on two legs with powerful hooked claws, creatures that stood on four legs with bony crests and more of the cursed fliers. Their colors were all green and red and like the raiding party, the red creatures wore armor of iron and the green creatures armor of gold.

More terrifying through were the stone creatures that stomped and flew alongside them. Solid constructions of rock shaped to match their masters, they moved along with a slow and steady motion, their size making them appear like rafts bobbing along on a river. The winged monsters adjusted course again, flying alongside the front rank of invaders, towards a section of the horde that had arranged itself in a tight square shape.

In the center of the square were others goats, mostly doesnannies and kids, who desperately ran as fast as they could to keep up with the pace of the army. They were obviously scared and tired. Who knew how long they had been forced to march.

Spiral and her companions were unceremoniously dumped into the mix, the winged warriors wheeling away without looking back. Spiral scrambled back to her hooves, only to be knocked down again by a panicked doe. She groaned, rolled over, and pushed herself back up and falling into line.

One of the two legged monsters stalked alongside the prisoners. Its scales had the red hue of the iron armored warriors, but the helmet upon its head and the rest of the armor on its body were ornate in ways that the others weren’t. A row of spikes ran down the center of the helmet, while the barding that rested across its back was etched with images of flickering flames.

And its eyes. Spiral had seen that look on the faces of wandering goat warriors who were unable to find tribes of their own. The eyes of the creature were half mad, like it was about to lose control and go toppling over the edge of sanity.

“MOVE!” She- apparently - bellowed. “Emperor Xin commands your obedience, you flea bitten mongrels! We will not fall behind because of you!”

“But-” Flower Finder began.

“SILENCE!”

Onwards they marched, the rhythmic impacts of thousands of creatures marching the only sound filling Spiral’s ears. They marched for what felt like hours, winding towards the narrow end of the valley. There sat the largest mountain of the range, the Endless Crag, a strong granite edifice that shot into the sky like a dagger.

“HALT!” The red bully snapped, holding up a clawed arm. Warrior and captives both stopped, the latter milling about in confusion while the fighters stood at perfect attention. Spiral nervously shuffled her hooves. They weren’t far from her home now. Glancing around at her surroundings, she took in the odds of her tribe being able to fight off the invasion.

They were not good.

There were so many of these invaders. They’d overwhelm the tribe by sheer weight of numbers. Her home was about to be destroyed, her fellows enslaved, and everything she had helped work towards washed away.

The soldiers before them suddenly parted, two new figures approaching. The first creature was one of the four legged, crested beasts. Green scaled and bedecked in finery, the gold and silver jewelry made him the most shining of the shining ones. Even his crest seemed to be made from gold itself and set with gems.

But it was the creature that stood next to her that made Spiral shiver. He was of the same race as the bipedal, hooked clawed creatures. But he stood much taller, his mottled, reddish-orange form looming over the his fellows. He also had no armor, only wearing golden bracelets and anklets.

The taskmaster from the march snarled again, marching through the ranks of prisoners. “Bow your heads to Emperor Xin! BOW!”

“Stay your rage Alaza,” the giant frowned. “This is not the time for ceremony.” His eyes roamed over the crowd of captured goats. “I am Xin. Lord and ruler of the Saurian Empire. As we speak, my legions are spreading across the world. All of your...rogue…” He sneered, voice full of disgust. “Mammal states will be brought into the fold. You are now part of the empire. As to why you are here specifically….”

His eyes flicked towards the mountain before them. “I intend to crush any resistance here. All shall be brought to talon. You will help ensure their compliance. You shall help ensure that no creature tries to interfere.”

“H-how?” Spiral yelped, her mouth running ahead of her mind. She immediately flinched away from the gaze of Xin. She had barely been able to choke that question out.

“Little mammal...you will find out should somecreature try anything. Pray that they don’t.”

- - - -

Xin turned back towards the mountain, savoring a smile at his plan. The bleeding heart alicorns wouldn’t dare strike against his armies so long as they had hostages. They were far too...soft, for the affairs of state. That’s why he ruled an Empire and they didn’t have more than a city under their control.

“Lord Kerzog...if you please.”

The Lord of Transmutation dipped his head in agreement. “By your will, Emperor.”

Stepping forward, the whole of his crest began to glow with arcane power. The aura doubled, then tripled in size, tendrils of magic crackling and whipping through the air as they sought out the sides of the mountain. Dancing along the rock and dirt, the spell grabbed the raw material, forging it into neat and even cobblestone roads; roads wide enough for saurian columns to march, ten soldiers wide.

Xin smiled. The invasions were progressing like clockwork so far. Sarken (Lord of Enchantment) and Xanhagul (Lord of Illusion) were thrusting deeply into the deer held lands and approaching their so called “world tree”; little more than a jumped up sapling.

Meanwhile, Belimara carved into the griffin territories, using their scattered nature to pick them off one at a time. Three of the arie kingdoms had fallen already and that was just the beginning of the invasion. The weapons of the feathered barbarians shattered against the spells of the Lord of Abjuration.

Finally, far to the south, the lords of necromancy and conjuration were tasked with subjugating the zebra tribes. So far, the striped ones had been avoiding the Zartha and Erunk’s legions, but they wouldn’t be able to run forever.

Yes. The lesser races would soon know their place under the firm claws of the saurians. Order would be brought to their lands and their societies. All would be one.

Turning, he raised a clawed hand, the glow of magic flowing around it. “Citizen soldiers of the Saurian Empire!” His voice, enhanced by spell power, echoed off the walls of the valley. “Go forth and conquer in my name!”

The army roared in response marching forward with a rhythmic rumble. The hostages found themselves swept along as the army began its ascent.

“No!” Came a call from high above.

The voice had a feminine and melodic quality to it, but Xin could hear the iron resolve hidden behind that. Smirking to himself, he casually looked towards the voice, already knowing who it was.

The alicorn’s coat was white as a freshly fallen snow, her short cropped mane and long flowing tail like spun gold. The image of a rainbow shaped into a heart stood out on her flanks; easily the most ridiculous aspect of her entire species. She was flanked by two of her kin. A stallion the color of storm clouds, whose mane and tail were constantly tousled by an invisible breeze; and a mare the color of freshly turned earth with a mane the crisp green of leaves in spring.

“Ah,” Xin shook his head. “Iridia, have you come to finally surrender?”


“No,” the alicorn answered, eyes narrowed. “We have come to offer you a chance to walk away. If you return to your lands and release the creatures you have captured, this can end without coming to violence.”

“All shall be brought into the empire,” Xin responded. “Order, stability, the rule of law. These are the things needed for civilization to thrive. Not the mindless barbarism that beasts like this,” he waved a claw towards the cowering goats, “wallow in!”

“I am not here to debate your speciesist views, Xin.” Iridia glared down at him. “Your actions will have horrible repercussions! You will turn back, or we shall do what is required to stop you.”

“Hmm.” Xin frowned, shaking his head. “So be it. Kerzog? Alaza?”

“Yes?”

“Kill half the hostages. Make our position clear.”

A wild cackle escaped Alaza’s lips, flames flickering around her claws. Multiple spheres of burning stone appearing in the sky above their heads. They dropped towards the ground, screaming and crackling through the air. Kerzog’s eyes glowed, green beams of energy blazing towards the goats as well. But before the spells could strike home, the dark and light goat sisters vanished in a flash of light, suddenly replaced by a dark and light pair of alicorns.

Their horns immediately sprung to life, a glittering shield of sunlight erupting between the spell and the collection of mammals, while an ethereal moon light glow engulfed the goats. Meteors met shield with an ear ringing explosion, goats and alicorns vanishing in a brilliant flash of light.

Snarling, Xin kicked off from the ground, letting his magic carry him into the air. The other three alicorns were already diving towards his army, splitting off in three directions. He growled, twisting about and diving towards Iridia. Rapidly weaving a series of spells, a volley of blazing elemental orbs tore across the sky, raking across their bodies. The next moment he slammed into their de facto leader at top speed, using the full force of his body weight to send her crashing into the ground in a jumble of legs and wings.

Using the momentary breather to take in the results of the explosion, Xin frowned. The goats were gone, as was the dark coated, moon marked alicorn. A teleportation spell, most likely. The white coated one with the sun mark was still there, flames crackling about her body as she squared off against Kerzog and Alaza.

His troops swarmed forward, eager to get their claws on the those their emperor had deemed as inferior. The golems beared down on the flame wreathed sun bearer, heavy stone limbs lashing out in a rapid flurry. His rank and file slashed and stabbed at Iridia as she struggled back to her hooves, eager to spill her blood upon the grass.

“HAVE AT THEE!”

A lightning bolt seared across across his scales, a pair of hooves impacting with the side of his snout a moment later. Sent tumbling through the air, Xin quickly righted himself in time to see the storm-cloud colored alicorn pulling a hoof back for another strike. With a flick of a claw, Xin split, the alicorn finding himself suddenly facing down eight copies. His hoof strike passed harmlessly through one, Xin cackling as he flitted through the air.

“It was a good try at least-”

Hind hooves crunched into the tip of Xin’s snout, snapping his head back as the stallion's horn glowed with power. “Thou prattle on worse than my brother!” He mocked, lightning beginning to arc and flow around his body. “We shall break thee!”

Xin ignored the fools ranting. Calling forth a scintillating sphere of light between his claws, he whipped it towards the alicorn. Eyes going wide, he tucked his wings against his barrel and just let himself drop out of its path. With a snarl, Xin prepared to drop after him only to feel something else latch onto him from behind.

With a bright flash of light, he suddenly found himself elsewhere in the valley. Ripping away from the one who attacked him, Xin whirled about to stare down the dark coated alicorn from before, her star studded mane seeming to flow and wave under its own power. Two blades formed from moonlight were suspended in her magic aura.

“Emperor Xin.” The alicorn nodded. “My name is Luna. It’s time for your tyranny to end.”

“Luna,” Xin smiled with catlike glee. “You are welcome to try.”

With a roar, magic shot down the moon marked mammal’s horn, Xin matching it with a spell of his own. He would show this upstart why he was emperor!

- - - -

“Freeze! Freeze you furry wench!” Alaza shrieked, spitting an icy cone of magic towards the sun marked alicorn. The chilling winds and razor sharp shards of ice sliced through the air, only to impact against a shield of flame that the alicorn called forth.

The shattered remains of war golems and broken saurians lay scattered all around them, felled by alicorn hooves. The sun marked one before them snorted, shaking her head as the explosion of another spell tore through ranks, where the other white alicorn battled against the army.

“Please,” The sun frowned. “You need not follow this path! There is no reason our nations can not live in peace. We could be equals.”

Alaza ground her teeth so hard that they threatened to crack. How dare this beast even hint that they could be equals, let alone propose it! Kerzog gave a dismissive snort at her side.

“Absolutely not.” He dismissed. “Mammals are here to serve us.”

The alicorn shook her head sighing sadly. “So be it.”

A spark leapt from her horn, arcing high into the sky before exploding in a brilliant flash. Then she vanished in her own flash of light, that was joined a moment later by one from the other white coated alicorn. Alaza growled, her toe claws tapping an agitated rhythm upon the ground.

“Where did they-”

An angry rumble rolled through the valley. Alaza and Kerzog looked up to see the earth colored alicorn leaping from one side of the valley and back again, over and over. With each impact of her hooves upon the stones, the mountains that surrounded the army groaned in protest. Then, with one final strike, a massive avalanche of stones was knocked loose, sliding straight towards the army.

“Ha!” Kerzog laughed, eyes wide. Slamming a foot against the ground, he channeled magic into it. With a series of loud bangs and a shower of earth, massive iron walls tore themselves from the ground, rising into the air. The flurry of rocks and dirt rang a bell like pattern against the iron walls, but they held strong. The army was unscathed.

“A valiant effort,” He cackled, sitting back on his haunches. “But futile!”

“I THINK NOT!”

Kerzog and Alaza turned again to see the storm cloud colored alicorn flying in an incredibly tight circle. The wind whipped about, coiling and building upon itself with a growing fury as it formed into a twisted funnel. As it reached its crescendo, the winds roared and howled with all the fury of an uncontrolled storm. And with a flick of his wing, the tornado was sent barreling right towards the assembled saurians.

Without a word, Kerzog reached over and touched Alaza, the pair sinking into the earth as the funnel rushed past and tore into the army. The iron walls- so adept at protecting the troops from the landside- now acted like a funnel, accelerating the winds to even greater heights.

Troops and golems were lifted from the ground and tossed about like toys in grip of an angry child. Armor, weapons and bone were shattered from the impacts as they crashed into each other, the ground, and the metal walls that had saved them just a moment before. The tornado ground its way through the army, leaving devastation in its wake, before finally dissipating at the end of the winding saurian column.

Kerzog and Alaza emerged from the ground as the former’s spell ended. The storm and earth colored alicorns landed before them with a thud, joined by the sun marked one and Iridia a moment later. Finally, with another pair of flashes, the moon marked alicorn and Emperor Xin re-appeared on the battlefield. Both were marked by fresh scars and batter marks.

The two sides stared each other down to the chorus of moans from those saurians who had survived the tornado.

“Take your wounded and leave this place.” The sun-marked alicorn spoke. “You will go no further today.”

Xin glared daggers at the alicorns. “So willing to let your enemy get up and leave, are we?”

“Your army is broken and if we press the issue, so will you.” She answered. “Do not take our mercy for weakness, Emperor.”

With a hiss through his teeth, Xin motioned for his army to fall back. This was not the spot to die on. Besides, the other assaults were still in play.

- - - -

A delicate pink scaled finger, tipped with a ruby red claw, slowly traced its way down an elk’s cheek. The buff warrior didn’t flinch, or even move, the detached thousand yard stare not leaving his eyes for even a moment.

“Oh, poor dear.” Sarken purred from her perch. The elk was just one of many that were currently supporting her golden howdah, all under the grips of her enchantments. “But you’re doing such a good job!” The swiftclaw cackled, throwing herself back on the enchanted silk pillows that kept the icy north winds at bay. “I just may keep you all after this!”

To her right, Xanhagul rolled his eyes, glancing up from the enchanted map that showed their progress. The violet scaled sharpbeak stomped along with his head held high, flowing white robes hugging his slender for his species frame. “Pay attention! We’re almost at their accursed capital.”

Sarken waved a dismissive claw. His paranoia was beginning to grate on her nerves. They were backed by the Legions of Love and Pride respectively, thousands of saurians strong. And that didn’t include all of the deer kind she had enchanted to serve as extra guards. They marched at the head of the line, acting as a shield against any of their kin who got bright ideas.

Not that she was worried. Between her own enchantments and Xanhagul’s illusions, they had byassed most of the deer cities and armies that had been waiting for them.

“I look forward to turning that grand twig of theirs into a winter home.” She mused as they crested a ridge. “What kind of rugs do you think I should put in the entrance hall?”

“Quiet.” He growled, jabbing a foot at the distance. “We are here at last.”

A maze of tiered, wooden fortifications rose before them. Constructed to provide overlapping fields of fire, the ramparts were bristling with deerkin warriors and their gleaming weapons. Their expressions were dour, but that seemed to be the natural state for them in Sarken’s mind. Xanhagul looked to her, nodding his crested head.

“Go weave your magic.”

Sarken smiled, raising a hand and pointing at the walls. “Forward, my dears! Let’s have a conversation with your kin!”

The ensorcelled elk marched forward, Sarken’s opulent little lodge bobbing along on their strong backs. Exercising her mental control, she kept the warriors close to her. She could see the razor sharp javelins of the warriors already pointed her way. But they didn’t dare fire when doing so would reap such a bloody harvest among their friends.

“Defenders of the north!” She shouted, pushing magic into her words. The ears of the deer, elk and moose perked up, their eyes all locked on her as she continued to speak. “You have put up a quite an admirable defense. But that need has now passed.” Her eyes took on an eerie pink glow as she finished the enchantment. “Lay down your weapons and open the gates! Your new masters have arrived!”

The rattle of weapons on wood was music to her ears, that was soon matched by the grind of chains as the wooden gate slowly swung open. But the smile on her snout faded as the gates finished swinging open.

One of the accursed alicorns was standing there. With a butter yellow coat and light green mane and tail the smile that was on her muzzle was almost...apologetic, as magic danced around her horn. Five score, heavily armored moose warriors stood behind her, pawing the ground with an eagerness for battle.

“I’m sorry.” The alicorn smiled, before unleashing her spell.

The beam of magic struck the legion of mind controlled warriors, her enchantment spells collapsing to so much arcane dust. Sarken shrieked as the ensorceled elk that had been carrying her through the countryside, threw her from their backs. Howdah and all of its finery were sent toppling to the snow, Sarken sent tumbling snout over tail into a forest of deer legs. With another shriek, she desperately scrambled away from the angry warriors, their hooves doing their damndest to stomp her into the snow.

“Kill the witch!”

“I want her hide!”

“Break her bones!”

“Shatter her skull!”

Sarken squirmed past some of the warriors and ran as fast as she could back towards her legion. “PROTECT ME, YOU FOOLS!”

- - - -

Xanhagul rolled his eyes as the Legion of Love surged forward to protect their master. A glow settled around his crest as he wove an enchantment that hung in the air between the javelin throwers on the walls and her. No javelins would increase her chances for survival, at any rate. With a twirl of his claw, Xanhagul ordered the war golems forward.

Their advance was a chorus of rumbling footsteps and the crunch of ice and snow. His heart swelled with pride as he watched the advance. A legion of the finest war golems would certainly crush the throng of deer and their fellows-

Half way across the open field that ran up to the city, the golems suddenly dropped straight through the ground, a flurry of sharp cracks ringing through the cold northern air, it sounding for all the world like they had just fallen down a cliff. But where did a cliff come from in the middle of a field?

“My, my.” A smug male voice echoed in his ears. “Your illusions are impressive.”

The whole battlefield suddenly shifted, the lord of illusion finding himself staring towards the west and a winding ravine. He blinked. They had passed its beginning miles back and had kept it resolutely on their left clawed side the entire march here. But now he was staring it down, his entire orientation thrown off by a mass of false terrain.

Another panicked screech from Sarken reached his ears and he whirled about to see what she was panicking about now, only to jump back in surprise himself. A pair of giant glowing green eyes hovered in mid air, regarding him with an air of mockery. “But mine are better.”

The eyes shimmered away, revealing a dark green coated alicorn stallion. His long black mane peeked from underneath a golden horned helmet. Grinning widely, his horn glowed, as another illusion was dispelled.

With the dismissal of the spell, a massive army of deer-kin shimmered into existence behind Xanhagul’s own, armed and eager for a fight. With a roar, they charged forward slamming into the back of the Legion of Pride, even as they desperately wheeled about to try and meet it. Another roar rose from the walls of the city, as the army there sallied forth.

As the sound of battle filled the air, Xanhagul realized a very important fact. They were now trapped.

- - - -

Xin glowered at the driving rain that pattered off his scales, as if his mood alone would somehow urge the weather to change. It had been a week since the battle that had forced his ignominious retreat from the goat lands, the shattered remains of his army limping its way south, only to stop in the shadow of a different massive mountain range to sit and wait.

The reason for that current bout of sitting about was the intent to link up with what was left of Sarken and Xanhagul’s legions, both having suffered their own embarrassing defeats at the hooves of the alicorns and the other mammals they had rallied to their side.

He was alone, perched on a small rock away from the tents of the rest of the army. He needed time to think, to process that fact- on top of his own defeat.

Another twinge of pain rolled along the jagged wound that traced it’s way from his shoulder joint to the middle of his side. Luna’s moonlight blades had sliced the line across his scales during their struggle that had ended in a standstill. The rage at that still burned white hot in his chest. These...beasts...had challenged his empire! Had challenged himself!

They’d meet again, of that he was sure. He already assumed that the alicorns were tailing his forces, acting like chaperones, but also preparing themselves to strike again. Sighing to himself, he tapped his claws against the magic disk in his hand. Logic dictated that if the they had struck against two of his armies, that the rest of them would be attacked as well.

The amethyst gem set into the disk flickered to life a spell flooding through the enchanted item. An image flickered to life a moment later, another one of his lords reporting in. The lord in question was Zartha, the leatherwing lord of necromancy.

He was bowing, the tip of his beak touching the ground wherever he was.

Even amongst his fellow lords, Zartha wasn’t well liked. His devotion to death and the magical school connected to it had long since developed into an obsession for the saurian. The whispers were all the same. Zartha searched for a way to breach the veil of death and discover what was on the other side.

It was madness, of course. No creature- saurian, dragon, or mammal- had ever come close to finding a way to accomplish such a feat. Not that it stopped him from being one of the most arrogant creatures that Xin had ever met. Even the hated alicorns had a sense of proper decorum.

There was also the simple fact that delving as deeply into necromancy as he had was beginning to have a physical effect on his being. The fang like prongs that edged his beak, and ashen like quality to his scales certainly didn’t put other saurians at ease.

All of this was why the bow made Xin immediately suspicious. No doubt he had bad news.

“Report, Zartha.”

“There has been...a setback, my lord.” The necromancer responded.

“I see…” Xin sighed. “I don’t suppose you’re about to report that an army of alicorns and other mammals have routed your and Erunk’s armies?”

There was a pause for a moment.

“Not in so many words.”

Before Xin could ask a follow up question, Zartha was shoved aside by the lord he had been sent to subjugate the zebra with. Erunk was one of the few saurians that seemed capable of standing the necromancer, and even he looked livid at the moment. The light blue swiftclaw quivered in a mixture of aggravation and his usual manic energy as he jabbed a claw at Zartha.

“My lord, this fool deviated from the plan to go sifting through one of the zebra’s burial grounds! Our armies were ambushed by a red maned alicorn and her zebra allies.”

Xin resisted the urge to rub at the throbbing headache that was developing in the side of his head.

“It was vital for my research! I-”

“Quiet!” Xin snapped. “This campaign is over. Fall back to your cities. We will have to regroup and rethink.”

The lords bowed, their images fading away as the disk fell silent. With another growl, Xin got back to his feet, intending to return to his opulent tent. A lightning bolt chose that moment to split the sky, illuminating the surrounding countryside for a moment. And a few yards away from the camp, a pair of alicorns stood and watched.

Luna glared right at him. The storms winds were whipping her mane and tail about in a frenzy of movement, a cut on her cheek from their fight still evident. The sun marked alicorn from before stood at her side, looking no less determined. But then the lightning cracked again and they were both gone.

Yes. The war had just began.

Three months later….

A stack of reports- summarized from a dozens of battles and back and forth communications- rested atop the sprawling world map that in turn sat atop the wide stone planning table. Xin had read each one, and moved the stacks and markers that indicated the positions of his troops and armies.

The situation was not ideal.

The immediate counter-attack by his saurians went well enough. Rather than splitting up the replenished legions, they had grouped together and stabbed north, straight into the heart of the lands controlled by the goats and cows.

They had even successfully laid siege to, and then burnt to the ground, the largest armed settlement of goats in the mountains, most of the residents sent back south in chains. Then they had moved east, diving the cattle bands before them. Up until that point, everything had been going according to plan.

Then the alicorns struck again, producing larger spells, attacking in larger groups. And while the saurians had managed to fell a few of the beings, their furious power forced the saurians to once again retreat. And now they sat in their cities, trying to prepare for what Xin was convinced would be the inevitable counter-attack. The legions would have to be replenished from the citizenry and new golems would need to be brought forward. Kerzog was supposedly working on a whole new class of war-golems that would help turn the tide but he had his doubts that they’d be ready in time.

Xin, First and Sole Emperor of the Saurians, The Everliving Claw, hissed as a fresh twinge of pain flowed across his brow, following a fresh battle scar. He had earned that one learning the name of the white alicorn that always accompanied Luna. Celestia was her name, and the burning fires of the sun seemed to be her forte...not that she couldn’t give a brutal blow with those diamond hard hooves of hers.

But before he could continue to mull over his options, the distant sound of shouting began to float under the war room’s door. While distant at first, it quickly grew both louder and more discordant as other voices joined the first two.

“Great serpent.” He cursed, stalking for the door, “What fresh madness is this?”

The door burst open before he could reach it, his lords flooding into the room, while still carrying on their bitter debate. Zartha was at the lead, and shouting the loudest save for Belimara. The Lord of Abjuration was a sharpbeak, and much like Kerzog, had changed the nature of his crest. His was sold iron, much like his strict, military personality.

He alone seemed to realize that they had just barged in on their emperor, and snapped off a quick salute before pointing at Zartha.

“My emperor! This damned fool has brought doom upon us all! The drag-”

“Hold your tongue before I rip it out!” Zartha hissed, interrupting him. “You have no way of knowing why they attacked!”

“Oh my, yes.” Sarken dismissively waved a claw, her voice laden with sarcasm. “I’m sure that this had absolutely nothing to do with your accursed research!”

The group exploded into bitter arguments and shouting again, individual points lost in the angry chorus. Xin rubbed his fresh scar for a moment, before deciding to put a very quick end to this madness.

“SILENCE!”

Everycreature immediately did just that, withering under Xin’s gaze. With order restored, he pointed a claw at Zartha. “Explain. Why are you even here? Shouldn’t you be preparing back at Gatash?”

The saurian empire was divided up amongst the lords that controlled it, each province centered around a city. It was nice, neat and orderly. Just the way that Xin liked it. Zartha’s response to his question, however, was to cast his eyes towards the ground.

“Zartha,” Xin hissed through his teeth, “An explanation. Now.”

“Gatash has...fallen.” He eventually admitted, after several minutes of nervously shuffling from foot to foot. “A flight of dragons descended upon it and...burnt it to the ground.“

Xin blinked in shock.

“Keep going!” Kerzog snarled with a stomp of his foot. “Tell him why they visited ruin upon you!”

“They...they discovered my experiments on their remains-”

The explanation ended with Zartha slammed against the far wall, engulfed in Xin’s magic aura. The emperor bore down on his subject, a had raised in preparation to strike.

“I may have indulged your insane ideas in the past but did I not make one thing perfectly clear?”

“Y-you-”

“I made it clear that you were to leave the dead of the dragons ALONE! Temperamental! Territorial! Powerful! All of these things very adequately describe dragons, do they not?”

“Y-yes! But I was very c-careful my lord!”

Xin whipped him across the room with a gesture, letting a satisfied smirk cross his muzzle at the yelp of pain that resulted. “Then explain how they managed to find out!”

“T-the alicorns! T-they must have told them!” Zartha stammered, clutching at a wounded leg.

Xin frowned. To unleash a horde of dragons upon a city...it seemed rather bloodthirsty for the beings that had let his broken armies retreat time and time again. But another comment from Zartha pushed that thought from his mind.

“I am not the only one who failed you!” He stammered. “Alaza has lost Brakan-Zin! The alicorns drove evercreature from the city and tore it down! Scattered the stones and riches across the land! Even now her people camp in the hills, as she lies to your face, pretending that everything is fine!”

The Lord of Evocation kicked out with a taloned foot and a furious screech. “We will rebuild! It would go faster if Kerzog would spare some of his magic!”

“I am busy.” He snorted back. “Ask me again when the war is over.”

“We are going to be undone by infighting before the alicorns get to us at this rate.” Xin groaned. “How have my most skilled generals and rulers fallen into a bunch of squabbling hatchlings!”

“My lord.” Sarken answered, dipping into a courteous bow. “The truth is...morale is low across the empire. We have never experienced such resistance before. We crushed the uintatherium so easily.”

“The citizens are beginning to doubt our power.” Belimara admitted with a shrug. “Unless we do something, and soon, I fear that the legions...or what is left of them, will completely lose confidence in us.”

Xin frowned, rubbing at one of his scars. They had a point. Something needed to be done to help boost his people’s morale. But the frown quickly became a smile. He knew exactly what to do.

- - - -

The thumpa-thump of drums mixed with chanting, singing and cheering, rising through the night air like a warm cloud. Pride swelled within Xin’s chest as he looked down upon his subjects from the highest pyramid of Zhalast-Zin. On those streets were the citizens of the greatest empire to ever walk the planet. Why the other races of the world didn’t wish to be part of it… Even as slaves, they would be better off. The poor, inferior misguided mammals.

He looked to the sky, where a thousand stars glittered against the black canopy. They were all beautiful in their own way, but he was looking for one in particular. One that moved along the horizon as if it had a mind of its own.

It took him a moment to locate the star in question. Vos, the Wanderer. To the saurians, it was a very important star. It had been central to their rituals and festivals since the earliest days of their civilization and his own life. It was even the basis for their calendar, as it tracked the star’s journey through the night sky.

And tonight, he was going to drag it closer to the planet; to make it larger in the night sky. The reasons for this were two fold. It would be an impressive display of power for one. After many months of defeats at the hooves of the alicorns...admittedly impressive spell power, he needed to show his people that he was still a match for them.

But there was another reason to seek the star. Amongst the commoners of the Empire, Vos was also known as the Serpent’s Eye, the window through which the Great Serpent watched over his creations.

While Xin didn’t believe that was the case, there had always been a slight uptick in his own magic when the comet did draw close to the world. And, perhaps, if he brought it even closer, there would be more power for the taking.

With a gesture, his ceremonial staff- forged from solid platinum and set with a massive diamond- floated into his hand. Facing the crowds of his saurians again, he thrust it into the air, letting a flurry of sparks shoot from his tip.

“Citizens of the Empire!” His voice boomed out, enhanced with a simple spell. “I know that we have suffered setbacks in our struggle, that it has seemed like our glorious kingdom would finally come to an end! But I shall promise you this! We shall never suffer under the dominion of the alicorns and their mammal allies!”

He paused for a moment, giving the words a moment to sink in.

“But we will be conquerors!”

He could almost feel the bones of the city shake at the resulting roar of approval. He extended his arms into the air with a smile, pushing the magical energy high into the sky. The magic flowed and crept through the sky, the night chill evident, even through his spell power. Then, as the magic closed around the comet, the individual tendrils of power latching onto it like hooked claws, the flow of power came flooding into his body.

It was an electric tingle that washed across his scales, as Vos grew larger in the night sky, a rainbow tail illuminating the streets and the faces of his subjects. Steering the celestial object with small twitches of his claws, it arced slowly over the city to appreciative “Ooohs” and “Aaahs”, Xin drinking in the magic all the while.

The tingle flowed across his scales and through his body. It was...electric. Grinning wide, he pushed his senses deeper into the comet, drawing even more magic from its-

Daggers!

A thousand daggers were slicing into his brain in pure agony. He screamed, falling to his knees, clutching at the side of his head. Images, jumbled and confused, tore through his mind, pulling him in every which way.

He was here. He was outside the deer capital. He was back in the shadow of the central mountains. He was on a warm tropical beach. He was everywhere and nowhere all at once. And it was pure agony.

Screaming was echoing in his ears now, mixed with the cacophony of stampeding feet and the growing roar of something- most likely the comet- ripping through the air. Xin pushed through the pain for a moment, rolling his eyes upwards, throwing his arms skyward again in a desperate attempt to stop the plummeting slab of black stone. But it slipped through his magical grip like water between his claws to disappear over the horizon.

The explosion hit a moment later, the sky becoming a mix of reds, yellows, the grey of smoke and raining chunks of burning rock. Then the shockwave blasted Xin backwards, a roiling, churning rush of ash and heated air sweeping over the city.

Raising a hand, a weak shield flickered into being around his body. And then the cloud was upon him, smashing into the arcane barrier with a primal, unleashed fury. The magic fluctuated and cracked as Xin strained to funnel magic back into the spell.

“No, no, NO!” He snarled, matching his will against the will of the universe. For a moment, the shield seemed to stabilize. But then, with a massive crack-snap, it tore to pieces and the flames came crashing in, the world disappearing in darkness and heat.

- - - -

The sensation of spears poking his side that was the first thing Xin recognized as he returned to consciousness. He was laying on his stomach, knocked to the ground from the wall of burning ash and soot. A groan turned into a hacking cough as a searing pain lanced through his chest. It hurt to breathe, his lungs presumably charred from the heat of the impact.

With shaky arms, he tried to push himself to his feet, only to collapse to the ground again. The spears prodded him again.

“Emperor...you need to get up.” A gruff voice ordered.

“Do not coddle the idiot!” A different, but familiar voice snarled.

“K-kerzog?” Xin croaked, looking towards the voice. “What?”

A blow struck him across the face, snapping his head back and sending a fresh flood of pain through his body. With his eyes fully open, the devastation of Zhalast-Zin was evident. Where once glittered pyramids, accented with gold and silver, now was a grey wasteland of dark spires. Ash- easily a few inches deep- covered everything. Once glorious looking murals were cracked and scorched from the heat of the blast. And the streets. Streets that teamed with life before were now almost empty and quiet as the grave.

Kerzog, snorted, motioning to the two swiftclaw guards that had their spears resolutely pointed at him.

“Take him. He will not resist. His spirit is broken.”

Xin opened his mouth to argue, to demand that they stop. He was the Emperor! His word superseded any commands given by his lords, or their soldiers. But the words would not come. He couldn’t make them come. There were no explanations. No possible sentence he could construct to blunt the devastation that surrounded them.

The chill of cold iron clamped around his wrists, the two smaller saurians grunting as they strained at the chains to pull their larger ruler to a standing position. Xin stumbled forward, letting them lead him on while he continued to stare at the ruins of the once gilded city of Zhalast-Zin.

Being dragged through the streets did give Xin a more nuanced view of the destruction. Here and there he could see saurians picking through wrecked buildings, or doing their best to sweep the ash away. Most didn’t bother to look his way, locked in their own struggles at the moment. The few that did bother to turn their eyes upon him though…. Some looks were angry, their eyes full of an unmitigated loathing. With others, it was disbelief and sadness. Maybe even betrayal.

After a long and winding path, they were approaching what was originally the main marketplace of the city. Now it seemed more the site for an execution. A large platform had been set up in the middle of the square, and a second one on top of that. The magic swirling around the smaller of the two platforms was obvious, even without a detect magic spell. The more bizarre thing though, was the carved stone pillar. It had been carved in his likeness.

Saurians gathered and perched in the square, all turning to regard Xin at once as he was lead forth. And then the roar of fury echoed from the crowd, insults flying fast and thick. They wanted his head. Once again, he tried to summon up the urge to resist, to shout and yell at everycreature around him. But, what was there to say? His citizens were thin...emaciated. Some didn’t look like they had eaten in weeks.

This was all his fault.

Shoved onto the smaller of the two platforms, he was chained and lashed to it in quick order. Only when he was secured, did Kerzog and the rest of his lords step forward.

“They’ve been waiting for this for weeks, you know. That’s how long you were unconscious there. Your divine greatness at work?”

Xin said nothing.

“You have dealt The Empire a grievous wound my lord.” Kerzog sneered, glaring right into Xin’s eyes. “Well done.”

“Kerzog-” Xin spoke up.

The lord of transmutation snorted, his crest beginning to glow with arcane power. “No! No excuses, no apologies! You dragged us into a doomed war, and now you may have killed us! Face your fate with some dignity, my lord.” He spat.

“What are you doing?”

“You will see.” He smiled. “You will see...everything.”

Lightning jumped from crest to platform, and Xin was swallowed by light….

Author's Note:

One internet cookie to whoever can guess what book I'm referencing with this title!

Like I mentioned in the description, this was originally written for one of the Lunaverse's writing events. Ended up kind of sitting on my hard drive for a little bit as I worked on some other things, thusly completely missing the deadline of the event.

...This seems to happen with me and writing events at times. :P

Still, it's up now, so I hope that everyone will enjoy!